In her book “Wild Mind, Living the Writer’s Life,” writer, poet, and teacher Natalie Goldberg paints a wonderful metaphor of writing and overcoming the things that interfere with getting to the heart of the matter with your words.
She says to imagine being under a big sky where all around in every direction you see the horizon. She writes, “That big sky is wild mind. I’m going to climb up to that sky straight over our heads and put one dot on it with a Magic Marker. She that dot? That dot is what Zen calls monkey mind or what western psychology calls part of conscious mind. We give all our attention to that dot. So when it says we can’t write, that we’re no good, are failures, fools for even picking up a pen, we listen to it.”
It’s true from my experience as a writer that a million things distract. The buzz and static of our daily lives pulls us from our course as writers. The critical voice in our heads reinforces our perceived inadequacies and paralyzes us with self-doubt.
Goldberg continues, “This goes on endlessly. This is monkey mind. This is how we drift. We listen and get tossed away. We put all of our attention on that dot. Meanwhile, wild mind surrounds us. Western psychology calls wild mind the unconscious but I think unconscious is a limiting term. If it is true that we are all interpenetrated and interconnected, then wild mind includes mountains, rivers, Cadillacs, humidity, plains, emeralds, poverty, old streets in London, snow, and the moon. A river and a tree are not unconscious. They are part of wild mind. I do not consider even a dream unconscious. A dream is a being that travels up from wild mind into dot/monkey mind/conscious to wake us up.”
“So our job as writers is not to diddle around our whole lives in the dot but to take one big step out of it and sink into the big sky and write from there. Let everything run through us and grab as much of it as we can with pen and paper. Let yourself live in something that is already rightfully yours–your own wild mind.”
Sound advice, I think. So I would encourage you as you write, let your mind drift to the immense canopy of sky encircling you. Step out of the dot and plunge deep into the vast consciousness of everything. Let the words and ideas flow without reservation. Take your writing life back from obedience to the dot. Because, after all, it is only a dot.
Thanks to Jo’s Shelf Life for the inspiration!